Archive for March, 2009

Post-Earth-Hour Thoughts on a busy Monday

March 31, 2009

Well, we did it.  On March 28, this past Saturday, at 8:30 pm local time, more than 4000 cities around the world and possibly nearly a billion people turned off or dimmed their lights for an hour.  India and China participated for the first time. 

What did I do? 

Well, this past week was insanely busy with post-midterm marking papers and so on, but somehow between classes and between breaths I managed to spread the word at the college where I teach.  Students in the college green team made a facebook page, the administration cooperated readily, and somehow we became official participants.  But I had no idea to what extent the dorm students would cooperate and how effective it would be, until I happened to drive by the college on my way to an Earth Hour gathering at a local Unitarian Universalist church.

It was an amazing sight.  Usually the college is a blaze of lights on a hill above the main road, but the hill was completely dark, except for the college sign and the streetlights.  I was stunned into silence, then couldn’t help cheering and yelling.  I almost felt like abandoning my party and going up to see what mischief the young people were up to, but managed to resist the temptation.  I felt very proud of them, however.  And amazed at how my minimalist networking had resulting in this near-complete voluntary blackout.

My earth hour party was fun, though.  We were a small group, sitting in a large, empty room around four small candles (soy and beeswax only, so they are part of the carbon cycle and not a “new” carbon source as a petroleum-based candle might be).  We had a guitar and an Irish flute, and we sang songs and chatted.  At first it was a bit awkward but there is something magical about candle-light.  So the conversation warmed up and the singing became more enthusiastic, and we had some poetry as well.  The hour went by but we were all reluctant to turn on the lights so we sat around for another half hour or so.  Then it was time to go. 

When the lights were back on it was as though a spell had broken.  I realized then that I hadn’t really relaxed for months before then, so that I had forgotten what it felt like.  Sitting around a few candles was perhaps like sitting around a fire, telling stories, which humans have been doing for millenia.  Somehow electric lights don’t have the same effect. 

Not that I don’t appreciate technology — I love my computer, for instance.  But it is nice to be reminded that there is life beyond electricity. 

I am now waiting for reports from the Earth Hour folks.  I have read that 36 million people in the US participated, and that the world figure was perhaps close to a billion.  If this builds momentum it will be really exciting.

Here are some pictures and an update

I wish there was more about all this in the SF blogosphere.  Perhaps I simply haven’t been looking at the right blogs, but SF folks seem to be very quiet about this.  And here we are, trying to build a mass social movement to stop climate change, to save the world — what could be more SFnal than that?

Earth Hour 2009: A Call to Action

March 20, 2009

What can I say that can be better said than this short video?




What are you doing? 


I’m turning off the lights and having a neighbourhood party! We’ll be playing music from around the world and singing.  And maybe telling ghost stories.  The kinds of things I remember us doing when there were power-outs in India in the summer (we grumbled too, but I don’t plan to do that this time). 


This is a historic occasion — the largest global call to action against climate change.  The idea is to send a message to governments and policy makers that people want serious action at the Copenhagen meeting in December to counter climate change.  Since lighting is a big fraction of electricity usage and since coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, this symbolic act of turning off the lights for an hour speaks volumes. 


Already scientists’ worst fears are being realized, with the melting of the icecaps at an unprecedented rate and the extreme weather events and sea level rise.  But we have a window of time in which to act. 


So let us act, us earthlings, SF writers and readers, plumbers and professors.  Please publicize on your blogs and websites and social networks! 


So far, over 1800 cities have signed up, including Boston, Washington D.C., Beijing, Copenhagen, Paris, Capetown…  Even the Eiffel tower is going to turn off its lights!  And over 7000 schools, 18,000 businesses and millions of individuals around the world.  Here is more information and a place to sign up. 


For folks in India, here is the Indian website for Earth Hour.  The campaign has the blessings of Aamir Khan! 


Earth Hour is being organized by the World Wildlife Fund.  For me this has a particular significance because when I was a young teen in Delhi, I became a member of WWF and remained so for many years.  The office was a room in one of the big government bungalows that had been built by the British — I remember the gorgeous lawns, the thick yellow-plastered walls, the air of hushed importance of the place.  I think it may have been the home of some big shot in the government.  As a terminally shy kid the one thing that would make my speak with passionate fervor was the situation of vanishing wildlife and the wilderness — within a month of membership I had signed on 15 classmates as members! 

The “situation” is much worse than it was all those years ago.  Then, I felt for the creatures whose habitats were being destroyed by so-called development, and for the great tracts of forest being cut down.  Later, through my membership with that amazing and unique organization, Kalpavriksh, I realized how the fate of other species was connected with our own, and with social justice issues, and learned to regard “economics versus ecology” as a false dichotomy.  But even in those days I could not imagine that a couple of decades of economic liberalization in my country (starting in the 1990’s) would end up in such a mass destruction of the environment as to make all previous assaults pale into insignificance.  That the ravenous appetite for an energy-consuming lifestyle like that of the West would also engulf India, displacing a slower, more modest way of living.  And I surely could not have imagined that in my lifetime I would be a part of a global movement to literally save the world: the specter of global warming had not raised its ugly head in those innocent days.  In those days, although I penned letters to editors about how we were at the eleventh hour, I could not have imagined, as I know now, that we would ever be this close to midnight. 

Hello multiverse!

March 14, 2009

My family and friends finally persuaded me to start a blog.  So here I am, emerging from my nice, comfortable rock to peer out at the universe.  I don’t know how well this is going to work: I think of it as an experiment.  I’m going to be posting, hopefully regularly, on writing, science, and pretty much everything under, inside and on the other side of the sun.

Who am I?  Depending on context, I’m a writer, a scientist, an animal of the species homo sapiens, a female and an Earthling.  You can read about my writing at my website. Currently:  I’m trying to finish two short stories, grade a towering mountain of papers, and get back into exercising, while attempting to do my part to save the world.

For those who are  curious: Antariksh Yatra translates from the Hindi into (more or less) Journey Through the Cosmos.  For those who like details: “Antariksh,” which means Cosmos, has only short vowels, and the accent, like so many Hindi words, is distributed equally over all the syllables.  “Yatra,” which means journey, has both a’s long, and accent about equal too.

I’d like to thank my daughter for helping me (a semi-luddite) set this up.

Best, Vandana